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Jeter starts Bronx farewell memorably

Yankees Dispatch O's  In Jeter's Final Home Opener

NEW YORK (AP) -- Derek Jeter arrived for his last Yankee Stadium opener fashionably early at 9:35 a.m., attired in a gray suit, white shirt, purple tie and black Prada lace-up shoes.

His performance, if not stylish, was memorable.

Jeter missed a home run by about 2 feet in Monday's 4-2 win over the Baltimore Orioles. After he left the batter's box slowly leading off the fifth inning, the ball hit off the "8" in the 318-foot sign in the left-field corner and Jeter hustled into second with a headfirst slide.

"I had to pick up the pace a little bit," he admitted. "Yeah, there were some guys laughing - until a couple of them hit some balls and the wind got them, too."

It was a rare mind cramp for a player known for hustle and an unfailing ability to be in the right place.

"Maybe you get caught up in opening day," he said. "You probably haven't seen it, probably won't see it again. But what can you (do)? I was safe. It would be a lot more embarrassing if I was out."

Jeter scored one run, sent another home with a double-play grounder on a 1-for-4 day and was applauded every time he came to bat and fielded a grounder to shortstop.

This was Jeter's first appearance in New York since announcing Feb. 12 that his 20th season will be his last. With the retirements of Jeter's No. 2 and former manager Joe Torre's No. 6 likely, the 48,142 adoring and slightly frosted fans on hand during a cool and overcast afternoon almost surely were the last to witness a single-digit pinstriped uniform on opening day.

Jorge Posada, Mariano Rivera and Andy Pettitte formed a Core Four reunion for the ceremonial first pitch ceremony, a reminder of the five World Series rings earned during Jeter's era.

And Yogi Berra, the Yankees' 88-year-old symbol of post-World II dominance, was in the clubhouse in his wheel chair for some opening-day schmoozing.

Since first coming up to the big leagues in 1995 and establishing himself the following year, Jeter had been model Yankee, continuing the line of greatness that began with Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig, and was extended by Joe DiMaggio, Berra and Mickey Mantle. He became captain in 2003 and still talks of owner George Steinbrenner instilling the compulsive obsession to win, recalling "if you didn't do your job, the Boss would get rid of you."

As players' lives became more public in the digital age, Jeter remained opaque and a bit Vulcan, suppressing emotion.

"Yeah, you have feelings and there's a lot of wild moments playing here in New York," he said, "but for me I just it was always easier for me to play if I tried to control my emotions."

After breaking his left ankle in the 2012 playoffs and limping through 17 games last year, Jeter decided 2014 was the end. He turns 40 in June and probably could play a few more years but felt this is the right time to move forward to the next stage in his life.

"He has a lot more mileage on his body than all of us," Posada said, having watched Jeter play through injuries that would have sent others to the bench.

Pettitte implored Jeter to "just try to embrace it and really enjoy" his final year "because he's going to blink and the season is going to be over and then he's not going to put the uniform on again."

"It's kind of weird, but it is what it is," Posada said. "We have to move on, and another core four has got to step up."

Jeter's head was bowed during much of "The Star-Spangled Banner." When the national anthem ended, he crouched for a few seconds, then got up, put on his cap and jogged down the first base line and the back of the infield dirt toward second base.

By coincidence, Jeter's first big league manager, Buck Showalter, was across the field running the Orioles. Showalter expressed effusive praise.

"A lot of people get caught up in the disease of `me,'" he said. "Derek never fell in that."

More than 3 1/2 hours before Monday's first pitch, Jeter was among the first players in the Yankees oval clubhouse. A gift basket of liquor at his locker, next to one of the new office-style swivel chairs with each player's number and the team's interlocking "NY" logo.

Seeing a business bonanza, the Yankees were selling jerseys with Jeter commemorative retirement patches, starting with replicas at $114.99 and going up to $240.99 for authentic models. Steiner Sports was hawking a game-used single cleat for $2,549.99 and game-worn jerseys at up to $25,000.

Jeter didn't have much hope of leaving the ballpark with any mementos.

"I'm good taking the win," he said, "but Steiner Sports has the rest."

Join the discussion

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jdonoh4 April 08 2014 at 2:22 PM

The ball didn't clear the fence, so he got a double instead of a homer. Then he ended up scoring. Where's the blunder/lapse/gaffe???

Flag Reply +1 rate up
trellopa April 08 2014 at 8:46 AM

Another memorable moment was when the rookie Baltimore player, Schoop, got a double and Jeter went over to congratulate the kid. Subsequently, as pointed out by Orioles annoucer, Gary Thorne, Schoop was feeling good and relaxed, wandering way off of second base, Jeter snuck up behind him and took a throw from his catcher and got the rookie out. Thorne thought it was a masterful display of a veteran taking advantage of the situation which it was. He had to laugh at Jeter's acumen, yet knowing the O's missed a chance to possibly score that run from second. I have to admit it was a brilliant tactic by Jeter, although I am an Orioles fan.

Flag Reply +2 rate up
philsun73 April 08 2014 at 8:31 AM

I'm not a Yankee Fan, I have however appreciated the big show put on by them ever since the last days of the Babe. I remember well the season performance put on by the M&M twins, that had the sports pages of every newspaper in the country, he sports writer's looking on at every move. The race to beat the Babes HR record. Jeter is as good and has been as any of them, though there was a time that he was acting like a spoiled brat. But, he has earned the right, because he's not a phoney, of which baseball has had a few.

Flag Reply +3 rate up
susantwin April 08 2014 at 8:13 AM

Derek Jeter, "The Captain"...always presented the epitome of talent, humility, grace under pressure. To me, he symbolizes all qualities of great athletes and great human beings in all the best ways. A true gentleman.
Of course he has to move on, but NYY's will never be the same.
Wishing him all the best, and maybe a special year to end his career, too.

Flag Reply +6 rate up
frankc354 April 08 2014 at 7:11 AM

if all the players in the game followed his lead ,you would have no cheaters,no drug testing,and less true records being broken !!

Flag Reply +8 rate up
irdcl April 08 2014 at 6:39 AM

I will miss yoou so much, Derek, baseball will not be the same for me. When it is over enjoy your
retirement, love you much, you are the greatest.......Go Yanks

Flag Reply +4 rate up
f4180 April 08 2014 at 6:23 AM

Great guy Jeter , feels he has to earn it every day , not ENTITLED to something .

Flag Reply +6 rate up
diatime April 08 2014 at 4:20 AM

DEREK JETER - - - A Baseball Living Legend - - -
A true Role Model for both our youth, learning the American Game called "BASEBALL," and for HIS Countless Thousands of adult Competitors, and Fans!
Thanks D.J., for all that you have given to "THE GAME, and "TO ALL OF US," the minions who are
BETTER PEOPLE, for the examples you have shown, both ON and OFF the firld!"
....... ....... ---Y-O-U--- are a true ---M-A-N'S ---M-A-N--- ....... .......

Flag Reply +5 rate up
jcgreenleaf April 08 2014 at 2:08 PM

What was in fact the "rare lapse" and the "ribbing."
Who did the ribbing?
Over what?
Does the writer of this article have any skills?

Flag Reply +1 rate up
kmd1014 April 07 2014 at 11:58 PM

there'll never be another #2 like Jeter, hope he has a great year ! go yankees!!

Flag Reply +3 rate up
1 reply
pty014372 kmd1014 April 08 2014 at 8:19 AM

#2 seems appropriate for the most over-rated player in history.

Flag Reply 0 rate up
1 reply
puzlslvr41 pty014372 April 08 2014 at 12:50 PM

NO ONE knows more about finishing #2 then a Super Bowl-less Eagles fan!!! Go eat a cheesesteak for dinner....and some Humble Pie for dessert you clueless idiot!!!

Flag 0 rate up
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